I guess just about everyone who has fished has a fishing story to tell, and it’s usually about the one that got away, the monster fish that grows with each telling, and I’m no exception. Only this story is about the one that didn’t get away when I wish it had.
My wife and I were anchored in the beautiful harbour of St. Vincent de Barquera on Biscay’s Spanish coast. Back then, St. Vincent de Barquera was a simple fishing port set against the magnificent backdrop of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Our boat was simple. A 23-foot sloop with no engine, no electronics, no radio and a bucket for a toilet. Money was tight. Our meagre budget was spent on essentials like food and wine. The local red was very cheap. We lived on vegetables and whatever was on sale in the market. We also tried to catch fish.
We were anchored off some stone steps leading down from the quay to the water and everyday people came down with simple fishing lines and fished over the sewage outlet for mullet, which they caught in large numbers and took home to eat.
Now I wasn’t keen on sewage-fed mullet but what really caught my eye were the small rowing boats that held a couple of guys who jigged for and caught squid.
One day, as they came ashore, I got a good look at their jigs and then went to the local fishermen’s supply store and checked the price. Being a little expensive, I decided to make my own. Jigs are just a piece of round colored lead about half an inch in diameter. On one end is an eye for the fishing line, and the business end is surrounded by a series of short thin spikes pointing upwards and outwards.
Back at the boat, I found a four inch bolt and drilled a hole in the end. Then I wrapped it in red electrical tape. I bent several inch and a half nails into a V shape and fixed them to the bottom of my jig with wire ties.
My wife laughed when she saw the finished object and said, “Do you really think you’ll catch something with that? You’re nuts.”
I waited for the rowing boats to appear, just in case there was some kind of special time to hunt squid, and then lowered my jig over the side and when it hit the bottom raised it about foot.
I began to jig.
I’d been going for all of thirty seconds when my arm was almost torn out of its socket.
‘Holy shi*” I cried and began hauling hand over hand.
My wife leapt up from the cabin and looked over the side. “I can see it, I can see it!” she screamed, as excited as I was.
And then the creature broke surface.
Squid do not go gentle into that good night. They let rip a stream of black ink with deadly accuracy. Wife, me, boat … all covered in it, and it doesn’t come off. It’s the original indelible ink. The white cockpit spray curtains, made lovingly by my wife, retained traces of that ink for two years. Our skins were stained with it although not for two years.
So pissed off was I with that squirting squid that I dragged it over the rail into a bucket.
That night we cooked it and ate it. It was disgusting.
Next day I went fishing for mullet over the sewage outlet. It had to be safer.